UPMC Vice President Katie Scott explains the importance of providing a quality digital patient experience
Note: This executive response was produced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated the demand for digital health services and focused greater attention on digital tools at health systems. Telemedicine usage at UPMC skyrocketed during March and April 2020 and the health system rolled out new digital features, including online scheduling for video visits on its mobile app. Read more about digital solutions at UPMC here.
Providing digital health tools for patients to self-manage their care is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a necessity. Today’s consumerism has caught up to health care, and health systems that continue to lag in more-modern offerings risk losing patients to those that do — within a region and increasingly outside of it.
“It’s gone from digital health tools being a satisfier when they exist, to being a dissatisfier when they don’t,” explained Katie Scott, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Innovation for UPMC Enterprises. “Institutions such as banks and retail are already doing this, and health care came late to the party.”
A recent survey from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) and HIMSS Media indicates health care leaders understand this new mandate. Three-quarters of 136 IT, business, and clinical stakeholders surveyed in September 2019 had deployed at least one digital health tool to patients.
Those tools most often allow patients to access medical records, make appointments, manage payments, and search for doctors.
However, only one-third believed their current offerings were on par with the best possible consumer experience.
This disparity between select investments and perceived value does not surprise Scott.
“There are a lot of legacy infrastructure and systems that health systems are dealing with,” she said. “Banks had to overcome these challenges in the last five to 10 years. And there is a lot of complexity and security in health care that’s similar to banking, which makes building a tool that the patient sees difficult.”
Scott believes a bigger issue may be in how these digital health tools tend to be introduced as point solutions rather than as part of a more cohesive consumer experience.
“We provide digital options for only specific parts of the care journey — such as patients discovering they can access digital tools pre-surgery, but after surgery, they are back to the phone and paperwork,” she said.
That continued reliance on an analog approach also limits use cases, value, and immediate return on investment from those digital tools that are adopted, Scott added.